Ash Wednesday and Why My Sister Doesn’t Observe It

The following post is a public service that was requested of me to post.

Ash Wednesday is a day of mourning and repentance. Its date is forty days before Easter (not counting Sundays, what with the metric calendar and all).

A cross of ashes and oil is placed on the forehead to remind folks of their condition as lowly sinners. Sometimes Psalm 51 is read during the service. It marks the first day of Lent with some form of institutional fasting. Here is a poem about Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot.

The reason my sister does not observe Lent is many fold.

1) She does not attend a Catholic or Reformed Church or probably even a church that thinks a person should be mournful or repentant at any point.

2) My sister would not stoop to putting “gross dirt” on her forehead.

3) Fasting is not exactly “up my sister’s alley.”

4) Until recently she thought this was National Clean Your Fireplace Day.

5) It bears noting that she has no concerns about observing Fat Tuesday.

6) My sister is still trying to figure out if there really is a metric calendar.

6 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday and Why My Sister Doesn’t Observe It”

  1. First of all, your sister rocks. Secondly, she’s really just jealous cuz Portillos and other restaurants serve egg and pepper sandwiches during lent and I’m …I mean, she is just too embarrassed to order one cuz it might ruin her Protestant testimony but it sounds so cool. Thirdly, Grace, baby,grace.

  2. Oh, and your sister goes to a church where she is subliminally meant to feel remorse for laboring all those years with the belief that hymns were actually good music.

    I repent! “I am a friend of God, I am a friend of Godddd…. I am a friend of God, He knows my name!” (Repeat ad nauseum.)

  3. This “holiday” always leaves me a little perplexed, I confess. I grew up in a church tradition that ignores and I am now part of a church tradition that seems rather fond of it, so it always catches me by surprise. So here are my issues with Lent:

    First of all, I’d like to see some type of supportive biblical precedent. Yeah…I didn’t think so.

    Secondly, I don’t see how not drinking your favorite carbonated beverage for 40 days or laying off the Three Musketeers bars gets me any closer to Jesus. That’s not what biblical fasting is about and, besides, it will slow the economic recovery of our nation.

    Thirdly, I think the smudge looks dumb and calls unwarranted attention to bland and meaningless displays of pseudo-piety.

    Fourthly, it just smells of residual popish tomfoolery…and I’m not down with that.

    So, yeah, your sis is right on this one, I’m thinking.

  4. Barry,
    The one passage that comes to mind is when Christ says, “When you fast don’t look miserable or draw attention to it.” Loose paraphrase. That seems to end institutional fasting of any kind and if not that, at least eliminate putting a mark on your forehead (which is also what the antichrist wants to do, but that’s another subject).

    However, wouldn’t you know it, Catholic types actually use that very passage to say they are following Jesus here. The next verse Jesus says to put oil on your head and guess what? They mix the ashes with oil! Yeah. I don’t buy it either but that’s what they say.

  5. As for giving up soda or candy: for most people it’s probably just a thing they do- use Lent as an excuse to try to improve themselves.

    But for a Christian any type of fast (and any excuse for it, even church tradition!) can help us grow closer to Jesus.

    If you habitually grab a cup of coffee three (or thirteen) times a day, and suddenly stop doing so, you have created three (or thirteen) new daily opportunities for prayer, reflection, etc.

    Give it a try, Barry!

  6. I think the general teaching on the subject of fasting is that it’s about the heart. It’s easy to criticize the practice because so many people treat it so stupidly. If you have not love it profits nothing. Perhaps for some since it’s an institutionaly enforced practice it ceases to engage the heart. Whether a guy fasts or not is up to the guy and should be done discreetly and out of a motivation of love. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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